“People discover that it is almost impossible to swing dance without a smile”
The “La Comarca del Swing,” (Swing District) association which offers free classes for members and “clandestine” street dancing, is celebrating three years of spreading its passion for this joyful and “therapeutic” music.
In September there were a little over forty members… By January 2019, more than one hundred. The number of members of “La Comarca del Swing” continues to grow and, until April, they will not be able to accept new members for these classes which they offer – free of charge – in the civic centre of San Bernabé in Algeciras, every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
Toni Barea, one of the teachers and founder alongside his wife, Belén Barroso, told us more about the non-profit organization which will be celebrating its third year of operation in June, with the sole purpose of sharing their passion for swing: a musical style that was born in times of crisis and that, today, almost a century later, has proven to be a happy rediscovery for many.
“When people sign up to try it, they are surprised, because there are other forms of ballroom dance that are a lot more serious… But swing is joyful music that spreads happiness, and it is almost impossible to dance to it without a smile on your face,” Barea comments, before clarifying that, what we call “swing” is the music, not the dance that accompanies it and that, actually, it adopts three different styles: Lindy Hop, Jazz Steps and Jive.
“Swing, which was born in the United States in the 1920s, was a derivation of jazz which became popular during the thirties and early forties and focused, primarily, on getting people to dance. Later, by the end of the forties, jazz turned more serious and swing evolved into rock and roll.”
No previous experience is necessary for a try out, nor does it require physical fitness; therefore, there are all types of dancers amongst the members of “La Comarca del Swing”: experts of other styles of ballroom dance as well as people who have never danced before; from 17 to 70-year-olds.
The only requirement is to show up with the aim to have a good time. “It’s very gratifying because you can learn to start enjoying the dance with just four basic steps. Then, as we move on to the other levels, it gets more complicated. The point here is not to compete, but to enjoy ourselves. Almost everyone who tries it once comes back for more.”
Apart from the weekly classes, the members of “La Comarca del Swing” tend to meet at the Café Central in San García (Algeciras) twice a month on a Friday, to share a social dance routine that is open to anyone who wants to join in and, from time to time, they also organize what they call “clandestine” dances: they meet in a certain area of the city to dance on the street and invite the public to approach them and learn more about their activities.
In addition, as of last year, the association has brought its passion to the University; given the excellent feedback they obtained for their workshops last year, new ones will be offered for the students of the University of Cadiz (UCA) in Algeciras in April, and another in May, which will be specifically aimed at students in the Seniors’ Classroom.
Another great project to look out for in 2019 is the organization of a ‘Swing Meeting’ in the region, which will take place at the end of June.
It has already been predicted that it will surpass last year’s 180 registrations.
Even though membership only costs 5 euros a month, this low cost is what makes all the members get to enjoy these activities and special occasions with live music. And the best part?
“When someone tells you that Swing changed their life, it’s not something people just say. I’ve met people who turned to Swing to face separation or overcome pain; married couples who spent years not going out and, all of the sudden, meet a group of friends; people who couldn’t even move because they were in so much pain, and suddenly start feeling better. Swing doesn’t just involve physical exercise, it’s also mental because you have to coordinate your movements and learn the steps.”
“And, of course, there is also a social component, because you have to swap dance partners and that obliges you to socialize with other people. It’s somehow therapeutic.”